During the summer of 2012, I took a 4 week trip to New Zealand through the Lions Youth Exchange Program. This program entails spending 5 weeks in a different country where you spend 2 weeks living with a family, another 2 weeks with another family, and a final week at a camp for all the international exchange students at that country. However, my experience was different because during our summer here in the United States it is New Zealand’s winter so during the time of my trip, the camp was closed. To make up for the camp being closed, for my trip I stayed 4 weeks with 5 different families with nearly all of them from different parts of New Zealand. So for my trip I stayed in Nelson, Blenheim, Wanganui, and Te Puke.
During my first week I stayed with a family of 4 who lived in an old building right next to a church in Nelson. I later found out that the house was actually used in the past to house the church officials. The family staying there was renting the 6 bedroom house and letting others stay there as well as long as they helped with the rent. Of the others staying there I met a man from India and 3 students from Japan. They showed me some of their culture by cooking certain foods such as curry which, in my opinion, was delicious even though it was very spicy. Outside of their home, my host family took me to many different places.
I was able to experience a town flea market which had many different cultures mixed in such as Italian, Maori (the original people of New Zealand), British, and a few others. I was also taken to see the very center of New Zealand (although due to earthquakes it is no longer 100 percent accurate), salmon fishing, a museum and a mock town of the very beginning of Nelson (Founders Heritage Park), The World of Wearable Art, and a famous glass blowing shop. I saw so many things and saw so much so much history while staying in Nelson. However, my trip had only begun.
The next week, after some tearful goodbyes with my Nelson family, I moved on to Blenheim where I stayed with 2 different families for 3 days each. On my first day in Blenheim I went out to the nearby ocean and saw a rock named Rarangi Millennium Rock that has two holes to look through. I was told that when looking through the up most hole on New Years, I would see the exact spot where the sun would rise.
Later on I was also taken to a wonderful chocolate factory, beautiful mountains to go play in the snow, had a tour of a small hospital, played in a bag mitten match, went to a large salt factory, and toured the guide tour for planes at an airport. But I think my most memorable part of this week was going to a small cove where every year baby seals come to safely play.
My next spot to travel to was Wanganui where I stayed with an older couple out on their farm. However, my days, when we were not rained in, were mostly taking place in the city. In the city I went to the river to travel on the Waimarie (a river boat that had been restored after being found washed up on the river bank after a terrible storm), a large park that was easily a child’s paradise, an army museum, and Gravity Canyon. I had to most fun at Gravity Canyon where I glided through the canyon on the Flying Fox (similar to zip lining).
Finally, for my last week in New Zealand, I had to take an 8 hour bus ride from Wanganui (bottom of the north island) to Auckland (near the top of the north island).
While on the bus, I passed many beautiful landscapes such as rivers, mountains, plains, and rolling hills. And when I finally reached Auckland, I was then transferred to Te Puke, the kiwi capital of the world. While in Te Puke, I learned more in-depth detail about the Maori culture and past, saw many natural hot springs, and toured a kiwi distribution factory. For the Maori culture, I learned mostly about some folk-lore, the parts some of them played in World War II, and some of their traditions.
This trip showed me so many different things about the culture and daily lives of the people in New Zealand. I experienced and saw so much but I know that there is so much more in the world. Currently New Zealand has very little heritage sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List but from what I saw, I would expect there to be plenty more. There were so many beautiful landscapes and cultural revolving places that it surprises me that they are not recognized as heritage sites.